Shelter From the Storm

Covered bridges once calmed nervous horses and aided and abetted discreet kissers.

In their 19th-century heyday, covered bridges served a practical purpose—protecting timber floorboards from the elements, and preventing horses from getting spooked at the sight of rushing water. In fact, the facades of most covered bridges resembled the fronts of barns, in order to better soothe and beckon the horses to cross. We’ve come a long way from timber construction and horse-drawn carriages, but amidst our progress, the art of the covered bridge—a quintessential symbol of small-town America—has been all but lost in this century.

Illinois has clung tight to a few such relics: the state claims five original covered bridges remaining. One of them, the Red Covered Bridge just north of Princeton, still spans proudly over Big Bureau Creek along the Peoria-Galena Trail. Originally built in 1863, this 150-foot bridge was rehabilitated in 1973 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places two years later.

Well worth an hour’s drive, its bright red beauty complements the changing colors of the autumn leaves that surround it. While snapping photos at the nostalgic site, try sneaking a kiss with your sweetheart: in the 19th century, covered bridges were also known as kissing bridges, as courting couples secretly stole kisses inside them, unseen by passersby. a&s

This October marks the 55th annual Covered Bridge Festival in Parke County, Indiana. Featuring 32 covered bridges, this county is known as the “Covered Bridge Capital of the World,” and the festival, running from October 12th to 21st, is Indiana’s largest. Headquartered on the courthouse lawn in Rockville, Indiana, the festival will feature food and crafts by local vendors and free entertainment throughout the week. Peoria Charter Coach will offer a Covered Bridge Bus Tour to Rockville on Saturday, October 13th. Departing from Peoria at 6am, the tour will include breakfast, dinner and guided tours of several bridges before returning to Peoria by 9pm. For more information, visit peoriacharter.com.

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